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'There were many abuses': Barr sharpens attacks on FBI's Russia probe

Attorney General William Barr attends an event in July at the White House. On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, Barr called the FBI's years-long investigation into a possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia "a travesty," and said "there were many abuses."

JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST

By MATT ZAPOTOSKY AND DEVLIN BARRETT | The Washington Post | Published: December 10, 2019

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday sharpened his attacks on the FBI's investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election, alleging in media interviews the bureau had flimsy reason to initiate the probe in the first place, pursued the matter even after the case had "collapsed," and might have acted in bad faith.

In an interview with NBC, and, later, at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, Barr disputed aspects of the Justice Department inspector general's assessment of the Russia case - especially those that were exonerating for the FBI - while emphasizing the malfeasance the watchdog had uncovered.

"It was a travesty, and there were many abuses," he said of the Russia case. "From day one, it generated exculpatory information and nothing that substantiated any kind of collusion."

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz had a day earlier found in a report that the FBI had adequate reason to initiate the Russia investigation, and that there was not evidence to support the allegation that leaders acted out of political bias in doing so. But Horowitz also found serious faults in how the FBI applied for court permission to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser as the investigation progressed.

"I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press," Barr told NBC. "I think there were gross abuses. . .and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI."

Barr's comments are his most strident attacks yet on those at the FBI involved in the Russia case, and hew closely to criticism that President Donald Trump and his conservative allies have leveled.

Barr said a prosecutor he had hand picked to conduct a review similar to that of Horowitz - U.S. Attorney John Durham - had a broader mandate, and his investigation would likely hit an "important watershed" in the late spring or early summer.

The interview came shortly after Trump similarly attacked FBI Director Christopher Wray, who had noted in a TV interview that Horowitz found the bureau had adequate cause to initiate the investigation and that there was not evidence the decision was spurred by bias.

"I don't know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn't the one given to me," Trump tweeted. "With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!"

Barr said he understood and agreed with what Trump was "getting at" in his tweet, namely, "We can't ignore the abuses of the past and appear to be justifying or minimizing them."

But he noted Wray "has been working hard to address the problems of the past," and, asked by NBC's Pete Williams if he had confidence in the FBI Director, responded simply, "Yes."
 

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